The Darkest of Days

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How blessed am I by the favour of the Almighty to be woken up at 4am today by my healthy and hungry 7-month old for her routine feeding. And how blessed is she to have the warmth of a crib, in the warmth of a safe home, and to be in the arms of her mother without having to even cry for milk. It was a peaceful and typical few minutes as I nursed her back to sleep, scrolling through my newsfeed to see what the morning had in store for me today. And I was punched in my core with a tragic status that a cousin in Pakistan had posted minutes earlier. Children? School? Shooting? Taliban? None of this made sense then and probably will never make sense to any of us sane people.
My heart breaks for the young lives that were senselessly lost, and my heart aches for the surviving victims that heard, saw, smelled and were touched by the barbarism that infested the Army Public School in Peshawar this morning. But most of all, my heart bleeds for the parents.
When we become parents, from the moment we learn of the pregnancy, we start to form an idea of how the future will look. How it will all change, how it will be busier, and how it will shine. A child becomes the center of his mother’s universe as soon as he forms his temporary abode in the womb. Every kick, every flutter, every hiccup that the pregnant mother feels is loaded with hope, dreams, and prayer. She daydreams about his face. She wonders about his smile and his smell. A mother and a father may giggle at the thought of this little being they created, curiously crawling into unfriendly corners, or laughing at the sight of water pouring out of a faucet. A father will plan to take his child out for walks in the park. He will think about all the lessons he will have to teach this young person and how he will help with homework. Parents will worry over things as common as coughs and stumbles and celebrate milestones such as sports victories and passing grades. They’ll share their plans for their child’s long-term future: “I want him to be an engineer.” Or, “I want her to have a fairytale wedding.” And the most popular sentiment of all, “I want him to have everything I didn’t have.”
These are the thoughts and feelings that unite all parents, of all children, all over the world. But the mothers and fathers of the 132 children we lost in Peshawar today won’t be able to see their visions for their children become a reality. Those dreams were massacred today. Among those children could have been scientists, leaders, humanitarians, and so SO much more. All we know now is that these parents will have a void in their hearts and in their homes that will never ever be filled. The dreams they once had for their beloved children have now vanished in the wake of this tragic nightmare.
So tonight I reflect on my own dreams for my little ones and I adjust them to keep up with the time and world we live in. I fluff up and colour my dreams like bright cotton candy to contrast the darkness of this world. Yes, I want them to have the kind of education, lifestyle and faith that brings them success and contentment. But for the sake of my children’s well-being, I also dream of a radical, positive change in the world. A world that is free of violence and intolerance. I dream that differing beliefs do not divide, but illuminate this world.

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26 Do’s and Don’ts of Putting My Baby to Sleep

1. Do turn the lights off.
2. Do shut the door.
3. Do have an open mind.
4. Don’t have your hopes high.
5. Don’t sit on the rocking chair.
6. If you do sit, try rocking the chair.
7. But usually, don’t rock the chair.
8. Don’t just stand.
9. Don’t sway.
10. Don’t bounce.
11. Don’t jog in place.
12. Don’t do lunges.
13. Don’t pace back and forth.
14. Don’t dance.
15. Don’t sing.
16. Don’t shush.
17. Don’t hum.
18. Don’t hold upright.
19. Don’t cradle.
20. Don’t cuddle too close.
21. Do hold tight when she arches her back.
22. Don’t use the “cry it out” method, it’s evil. Or,
23. Do use the “cry it out” method because it’s genius.
24. Don’t be noisy by chatting.
25. Don’t be pathetic by begging.
26. Do try all of the above just in case one of them works.

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Life & Cookies

imageNot having a smartphone at my disposal has frankly been a breath of fresh air these last fourteen days. My husband kept calling me a social media addict and I persistently begged to differ. But I see now that although the word “addict” is strong, I was dependent. I have been super homesick for a couple of months and maybe digging my nose into my phone was helping me pass my days and block out the noise of tantrums and Elmo. Ever since I lost my phone though, I have vowed to grow up and smell the coffee. Or in my case, the tea. This past week+, I’ve brought the soothing warmth of herbal tea into my life. It’s been a refreshing change to my diet. I decided to stop being stubborn and old fashioned and embraced our dishwasher. It has been LIFE CHANGING. Here I am now, no phone and no dishes in the sink. Lots more time to REST. I’ve also played and danced and laughed A LOT with my toddler and he’s been much better behaved. I’m wondering now if there is a correlation between my occupation with my phone and his bratty demeanor. Lots of food for thought there. Speaking of food, I’ve brought baking back into my life. Baking and I have a love-hate relationship. I go on these spurts where I try, I fail, I write off. But with rest comes patience and for me, ambition. So I baked an apple cinnamon loaf. Messed up a bit but my husband liked it so I went on and tried something else. Cookies.

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I had a pile of regular (without nuts) M&Ms – who eats those?? – from a sizable box of Halloween chocolates we got for free with our groceries one day. So I decided to Pinterest some baking ideas and found this awesome and easy recipe from How Sweet It Is. You can check out the recipe directly on the website, but I wanted to share a few adjustments I made/would make.

First, the recipe includes baking soda. I don’t have baking soda at home (the one in my refrigerator is not suited for baking), so I used 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder. I read somewhere that you can use 2-3 times more baking powder to substitute the baking soda. It worked out just fine for me!

Next, this recipe’s originality was that it tells you to roll each portion of cookie dough into a ball and then tear it apart. The halves are then pressed together “back to back”. What I missed was the part where you have to squish them together. SQUISHING IS IMPORTANT. I didn’t do that and so the top halves of some cookies toppled and then melded together in the oven, looking like a pair of Siamese cookies. I think the tearing and squishing technique ensures a fluffy cookie with a chewy center. Yum.

Finally, I left the cookies in the oven 3-4 minutes longer than instructed and they were to my liking, but that’s up to you. Just don’t over bake! The cookies turned out soft, rich, and deeelicious.

On a side note, I only baked half the cookie dough at first. I froze the rest by rolling it into a big ball and tightly wrapping it with cling wrap. When I wanted to bake the rest (4 days later), I put the dough in the fridge a day ahead to let it thaw. It was just as moist before baking and just as chewy after baking!

Hubby's shot.
Hubby’s shot. Not bad.
My shot.
My shot. Pinterest schminterest.

Needless to say, these cookies were a huge hit at home. But a surprising thought has dawned on me as I write this post: baking this time around has been metaphorical to my moving to BC. Exciting and full of expectation at the start. Then a wave of discovery, enjoyment, and satisfaction. Now giving me an unsettling feeling in my stomach. Too much butter, too much sugar, and too far away from everything that makes me feel whole and healthy.

Unplugged

karma_dominoDear scumbag-who-stole-my-phone,

Today I set out for a brisk walk to the mall with my babies, with plans to give my son the chance to play in the mall’s indoor playground. He LOVES going there, and that’s why my spirits were high when I left the house at 1:00 sharp this afternoon, punctually on the timetable I had set for myself this morning. If you are a mother, or are around a mother of youngsters, you must know how RARE it is to be on the ball with outings and schedules. I even managed to put Zaky to sleep in 5 minutes right before heading out so that he could nap peacefully during our 15-20 minute trek. Zara didn’t cry, as she sometimes does as soon as I start putting my shoes on. Once outside, the weather was absolutely pleasant and mild which further lifted me up, as my friends and family back home seem to be complaining of snow and slush. I was feeling blessed and grateful for everything.

I was even looking forward to picking up my parcel from the mall’s post office. Receiving parcels is always a delight, whether its a surprise gift from someone back home, or an online purchase I’ve been expecting. But I only got around to opening the package hours after I got home because my mind was so preoccupied by you stealing my phone, most likely at the post office.

You know what else I was excited about today? Seeing my husband. He never comes home early from work. Never ever. Today was that blue moon when he was coming home quite early, and though I wasn’t going to be home to welcome him, I was super duper excited to see his smiling face when we got back from our playtime at the mall. But when you stole my phone, my vibe was killed. I called my husband from a store and when he picked us up, I asked him not to look at me – because we both knew I would start crying if he did.

What was supposed to be a perfect day became yet another bump in the road for me. I got this phone a couple of months before my first baby was born. It contained over a thousand photos of both my babies, after I recently dumped nearly another thousand on a hard drive (THANK GOD). Those photos and dozens of recent videos were the special moments that have kept me grounded and sane throughout this whirlwind phase of early motherhood. You took them like they were nothing.

Now I’m not going to wish ill upon you. As angry as I am with you, I will not wish for you to trip and crack your skull. I will not wish for you to cut your finger and bleed profusely when chopping an onion. And I will not wish for you to fall down a long flight of stairs. And even though, thanks to you, my son’s playtime was cut WAY short, I will not wish for you to get hit by a bus. Instead, I will take the high road and make the most out of not having a smartphone for a little while. I will fold that pile of laundry that has been sitting in the basket for three days. I will declutter the top of my dresser so I could see the surface of it again. I will take the time to stare into my daughter’s mesmerizing eyes a little longer when she looks up at me with complete infatuation. I will wrestle, tickle, and act silly with my son until our tummies hurt from laughter. I will listen more attentively to my husband’s daily office tales that I’m sure he waits all day to come home and share with me. I will make the most out of this much-needed time away from social media.

I admit that lately I had been getting quite attached to my phone. Ever since coming back from our visit to Montreal, I have been increasingly homesick as the days go by. Staying connected on Whatsapp, Facebook, and Instagram made me feel like I was still involved in everyone’s lives and not left out. Your theft was divine intervention. That’s what makes this situation ok for me. And when karma pulls the proverbial rug from under your feet so swiftly, that it knocks over a glass vase that shatters into a thousand pieces, one of which flies into your eye, as you fall and break your back and suffer a concussion, don’t worry. Be gracious and find the silver lining.

Asshole.

Sincerely,

Moi

Now I Know My A,B,C,D!

Lately my 21-month old has been singing his alphabet(his abbreviated version). It’s adorable considering I’ve been singing it to him since he was born, but yesterday he demonstrated a level of comprehension which blew me away! Needless to say, the teacher in me has been working on letter recognition with the tot and I’m beyond thrilled that some results have shown.

photo 1He walked into his room and looked up at this wall and let out a loud gasp. After which he said with a big smile “A-B-C-D!” Boy have I been marveling at that moment ever since! I am so proud that he recognizes letters in general and understands the concept of them being part of a particular category of symbols. Below are some simple tools I’ve been using to help him learn the alphabet.

IMG_9249-0.JPG I found these foam letters at Dollar Tree (loving it more than Dollarama) for only $1.25. They’re a decent small size, perfect for little fingers to point to and manipulate. I’ve only been going over letters A-G with him so far. I have overheard him “studying” but since I have also caught him chewing on them, I have them tucked away out of reach!

IMG_9251-1.PNG Next, I noticed that he’d stop playing to tune in to this PBS Kids program called ‘Super Why’. In a nutshell, it is about a crew of super heroes, “super readers” who solve problems through the power of reading. It is an interactive program. Although Zaky does not realize that, he has been engaged lately because he sees alphabet letters all over the tv screen! He loves repeating the letter names when he hears the characters saying them. If you don’t have PBS, you can definitely find episodes on YouTube.

IMG_9248.JPG I went to Chapters and had a specific type of ABC book in mind. I really wanted the letters to be large, colourful and easy to recognize. Often times alphabet books are stuffed with images and art, and I feel that it could be too much stimuli for a little person trying to learn one concept at a time. With the help of a salesperson, I found this book that was better than what I was looking for. It allows readers to trace the letters, giving them a “multisensory experience that builds muscular memory and the dexterity needed to control a crayon or pencil”.

IMG_9268.JPG Finally, I found these flashcards at Dollar Tree for $1.25 as well. Truthfully I haven’t used them yet, but I have them in my bag of tricks as yet another method of exposing Zaky to the alphabet. As you may have noticed, once Zaky got to them I learned very quickly to keep them out of reach as well. The kid’s a monster, remember?

Now I’m not setting out to create a little genius (although I know my husband would love that). I also do not believe that a toddler needs to recite and recognize the entire alphabet before the age of 2. What I’ve been doing here is banking on my son’s current interests. It’s the best time for exposure because he is intrinsically fascinated and as we know, at that age the mind is a sponge. With that said, don’t hesitate to jump on teachable moments that come your way too!

Forgiveness

I write this as I rock my toddler to sleep. It’s been a very long, rainy, dark and lonely Monday. The day went smooth, without any tantrums or messes. But it’s the bedtime routine that’s tricky when you have a toddler and a baby, and you’re by yourself (daddy will be home late tonight). It can get ugly.

Tonight Zaky was very very excited after supper and decided it would be fun to run into my bedroom and keep slamming the door shut everytime I tried to get in. And once I did get in, he dashed into the master bathroom and closed the door – with him inside. It was only a matter of one second but that’s usually all it takes for accidents to happen, right? Don’t worry, nothing happened except I opened the door and snapped at him with that scary mom face I’ve mastered. Outburst #1.

Bath time had to start and finish before the baby got fussy in the bouncer. It was going well until Zaky decided he didn’t want the towel around him. Meanwhile Zara started to fuss, my patience wore off and I lost my temper. Outburst #2 and a crying baby.

We’re all finally in the nursery ready to call it a night. Baby successfully falls asleep and toddler seems cooperative too. Until the tossing and turning. When I remind him sternly (ok it was more than stern) that it’s “dodo time”: outburst #3. ‘Holy bananas please don’t wake Zara you little rascal!’ is truthfully what I’m thinking, until he gives me his momma’s boy pout with the arms-open-wide plea to be held. And within moments of rocking in my arms, he’s out like a light.

At this point you might be wondering if I’m counting my outbursts or his. I’m not even sure myself! Frankly, I can get consumed with desperation at the end of the day. I just need them to sleep so that I can “start” my day! That quiet, grown-up time is so precious.

Many mothers would agree that once they are peacefully sleeping, you sometimes want to wake them up with your kisses because they’re so darn cute. I have those feelings most on nights like tonight when I feel bad for losing my temper with my spirited boy. I feel regret when I reflect on my actions as a parent in the last hour. I could have handled his misbehaviour differently. I feel guilty for making him cry, when I know that he was just acting like a tired almost-2 year old. I know I’m flawed but there is a bright side.

One of the first lessons my son taught me was forgiveness. The purity of a child’s heart is overwhelmingly beautiful. I learned this on a night when my husband was in Vancouver and I was alone with Zaky and pregnant with Zara. I was shocked at my impatience and went to sleep convinced that my son will hate me in the morning. But he didn’t. He was so happy to see me and wanted to play and cuddle. I learned then that yes, he loves me. He accepts me. It’s unconditional. It’s pure. I learned that forgiveness doesn’t have to be a choice, it could be instinctive. We all make mistakes, even parents. Forgiveness is not an excuse to make deliberate mistakes! But forgiveness liberates. On a small scale, it makes you happy. On a larger scale, it can give you a new beginning. With the same purity that our children innately forgive, maybe parents should forgive themselves too.

Supermom

Ever since we moved here, and especially after Zara was born, friends back home have regularly asked, “How do you do it?” Whether they have babies of their own or not, there seems to be a mystery surrounding my new lifestyle. I’m ready to talk about it.

One goal we promised to fulfill during our stay here was to make everyday all about our little family. So I wholeheartedly embraced my role as the primary caregiver, the mother, the cook, the housekeeper, and the friend to our babies. Consequentially kind and well-meaning friends, my husband included, have proudly referred to me as a “supermom”. But I respectfully disagree.

I’m far. Very, very far from my support network. I’m exclusively a stay-at-home mother and housewife. I can count on my fingers how many times I have actually spent time with the very few friends I have made here. But I’m not complaining. Not at all.

There have even been easy days, hard days, and harder days. Days when I’ve felt guilt, days when I’ve felt pride. I have done things right. I have done things wrong. Tears have been shed. Knees have been scraped. Heavy diapers. Hungry tummies. Runny noses. Cold fingers and toes. Boredom. Mischief. Tantrums. Laughter. Discovery. Imagination. Colourful storybooks. Tight cuddles. Sweet kisses. Warm blankies. Yummy fruits. Endless dancing. Excitement at the playground. Nursery rhymes in the car. The list goes on.

But none of this makes me a superhero. I cut myself slack as often as possible because I’m human. Letting myself feel the wave of emotions that come with this job. I’m a real mom, not a supermom. I’m not reinventing the wheel, but just taking it for a spin one day at a time. I don’t have a user manual or special powers. I just strive to be super at simply being a mom.